Reading challenge attracts 13.5m kids from Arab world
The initiative has grown significantly over the years, with the third edition reaching over 10 million participants.
Dubai - Out of the millions of participants, 16 students from 14 countries have been selected as semi-finalists.
A whopping 13.5 million schoolchildren have joined this year's Arab Reading Challenge (ARC), with around 455,000 coming from the UAE, organisers announced on Wednesday.
The challenge's fourth edition - organised by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives Foundation - also drew 113,000 supervisors from 62,000 schools in 49 countries, ARC's secretary-general Muna Al Kindi said during a Press meet.
Out of the millions of participants, 16 students from 14 countries have been selected as semi-finalists. One of them, 10-year-old Mezna Najeeb, is from the UAE.
"Only five students will battle it out for the grand prize of Dh500,000 and the prestigious title, 'the Reading Champion'," Al Kindi said.
The awarding ceremony will be held in November at the Dubai Opera in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
But this year's reading challenge will be getting a reality TV spin. The final rounds of the fourth ARC will be aired on MBC 1 every Friday for eight weeks, starting September 29 at 9pm UAE time.
The ARC series has been produced along the lines of popular international talent shows like the X-Factor, Got Talent and Idol, as explained by TV presenter Shahad Ballan.
Out of the eight episodes, seven will be pre-recorded, and the grand finale will be aired live from the Dubai Opera.
The first seven are currently being filmed at the Arab Reading Challenge House - or the Dubai Future Academy - near Emirates Towers in Dubai.
Readers as stars
The decision to produce a TV show for the ARC stemmed from a goal to engage and involve the public in choosing the next reading champion, the officials said.
Saeed Al Eter, assistant secretary-general of the foundation, said: "In four years, the Arab Reading Challenge has become a widespread reading phenomenon.
"We wanted to invite the Arab public to join their children in every step of the journey towards the winner's announcement in a first-of-its-kind television show that presents a unique edutainment experience."
Al Eter said that with such a show, young readers who are often seen buried in their books behind closed doors will become the stars under the spotlight. "They do not carry the traditional sense of stardom, but they are our real heroes. The Arab Reading Challenge presents them to the world with immense pride," he said.
Public voting for finals
In the finals, winners will be selected based on the answers they give the judges - but this year, there will also be a public voting round.
Al Kindi said students would be judged through a series of edutainment challenges and competitions that assess their choice of books; comprehension of texts they read; analytical and problem-solving skills; confidence; and ability to communicate accurately in Arabic.
Contestants will also be tested on the diversity of books they choose and their ability to communicate their ideas and apply their knowledge on real-life scenarios.
The panel of judges will include notable literary figures in the Arab world.
What is the Arab Reading Challenge?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives Foundation introduced the challenge in 2015 to encourage one million students to read 50 million books in one year. The Arab Reading Challenge's secretary-general Muna Al Kindi said: "It was launched to instil a culture of reading among students across the Arab world and spark a passion for knowledge beyond classrooms."
The initiative has grown significantly over the years, with the third edition reaching over 10 million participants. "Earlier, the selection processes were not known to people. Now, we will make it transparent," said Al Kindi.